Well it happened, for the first time for both All Saints and myself there was an Animal Blessing service and what fun it was.
I had no idea how many people might turn up and more to the point how many animals, or what kinds and whether they would get along with each other. The hour before the service was a bit of an anxious time if I am honest. However, the reality was over 40 people turned up – by far the majority were not members of All Saints, in fact not church goers at all. We had 14 dogs, 1 kitten and a hamster in person – or whatever the equivalent of person is in the animal kingdom – and 6 cats, 2 dogs, 3 birds, 4 rabbits and some fish represented by pictures, some pinned up on a board, others on people’s mobile phones.
Helen, Webley her dog, and I had welcomed people outside – fortunately the weather had been kind to us – introducing both pets and humans to each other, although some already knew each other, walking a dog seems to be a great way to get to know people. The service started with Helen welcoming everyone and dealing with the practicalities – bowl of water outside, accidents happen don’t worry about them, just please tell us so we know, and the like – then I introduced the congregation to those pets who were present in spirit through their photographs pinned on a board at the front of the church. Then we prayed giving thanks for all creatures great and small, had a Bible reading before singing some dogs joined in. I did a very brief talk ending with part of a poem by TS Elliot, then we moved on to the blessings. Firstly for all creatures, including working animals, livestock and the creature we aren’t too keen on. A prayer for those who looks after animals, vets, those who work with animals and animals in danger, concluding with a thanksgiving for pets no longer with us. Then the owners present were blessed – much to some’s surprise and delight, then a general blessing for all the pets present and their in picture form followed by a dismissal, but it wasn’t over, oh no it was just beginning.
I had promised that the service would be short – we had decided to keep it to 15 minutes – but at the beginning of the blessings had promised that I was happy to offer individual blessings to any pet present. But first there was a bit of a mad scramble, the photographer from the local press had turned up and we gathered all the pets together including a rather anxious kitten and hamster.
I hadn’t really thought about how the individual blessings were going to happen and didn’t really know how many owners would take up the offer. Well to my surprise they all wanted their pets blessed. Remember the majority of these people never step foot in a church usually yet they wanted God’s blessing for their pets, what can we learn from that? Before I knew it I was crawling about the floor getting covered in hairs and wet from licks as labradors, a pug, a wippet and every other animal there was blessed. Some got prayers too – “Tika is scared of water do would it be alright to pray about that?”, I was asked, “Well it wont do any harm”, was my reply as I laid my hands on her head and gazed into her brown eyes. While Poppy – the three legs referred to in the title of this post – is rather timid so some bravery was asked for her along with her blessing. I have no idea if Tika is still scared of water, or if Poppy now has the bravery of a lion, but apparently Rita kitten and Lucy pussy – two of the cats who photographs were pinned on the board and who were introduced as the house mates who couldn’t be left in the same room are reported to be getting on really well this morning.
Yes it was hard work and required a lot of preparation, but it was fun, proved to be a great bit of outreach, and was well worth doing. I would recommend you try it for yourself and if needed I will offer any help I can.